Wednesday October 17, 2012
Haj visa quota back to 680
THE MUSLIM community here must be prepared to accept the original allocation of 680 haj visas, and make plans based on that, Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim said in Parliament.
He was responding to a question from Zaqy Mohamad (Chua Chu Kang GRC) on how the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) plans to address the shortage of visas for Singapore Muslims to go on the Haj pilgrimage to Mecca.
The shortage is due to Singapore being allocated a much lower quota recently.
Dr Yaacob clarified that Singapore’s official Haj quota has always been 680 visas, but that the Saudi Government had generously been granting Singapore 1,500 additional visas for the past four years.
“This year, the Saudi Government is unable to give us extra places in view of massive construction work around Mecca.
“This applies to all countries and is not unique to Singapore,” he said.
The minister added that Singaporean Muslims who made early bookings for the Haj this year but eventually could not get a place, did not suffer any loss, as Haj operators can only accept payment from registered pilgrims who were allocated the official 680 visas.
He said that he had handed a personal appeal letter for more Haj places from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to the Saudi Crown Prince last month, and was still waiting for the outcome of the appeal.
The Haj is one of the five basic requirements of Islam that all Muslims must carry out at least once in their lifetime, if they can afford to do so.
It is performed as early as one month in advance of Hari Raya Haji, which falls on Oct 26 this year. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network